A £2.5 million project to renovate and restore the original heart of Wicksteed Park has transformed its elegant Edwardian pavilion, central piazza and precinct.
The Historic Heart initiative was funded by the Wicksteed Charitable Trust and has rejuvenated the social hub of the park, providing an improved welcome to visitors.
It is now complemented by restored original park cottages which utilised a revolutionary form of prefabrication and which are now being used for information centres, the sale of Wicksteed ice cream, learning spaces and community uses.
All guest services at the park are now located in the pavilion, making meeting under the clock tower a focal point for all visitors.
The completion of the project was marked by a celebration event, where HM Lord-Lieutenant of Northamptonshire David Laing unveiled a commemorative plaque in front of VIP guests.
The occasion was also marked by the official re-starting of the newly-refurbished pavilion clocks, which date back to 1921 and which are now working again for the first time in more than 25 years.
The four unique Tower Clocks, connected to a stage clock in the Edwardian pavilion’s ballroom, were manufactured and supplied by famous electric clock manufacturer Gents of Leicester in 1921 and feature internal movements made by the Synchronome Company of London.
After more than two decades of trying to find an expert with the knowledge to repair the iconic clocks, the work has now been carried out by a small independent business called Clockwise Restorations of Boston, Lincolnshire.
Oliver Wicksteed, Chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, said: “The Historic Heart project is part of the Trust’s vision to ensure the park reaches its full potential as a heritage and learning resource for the local community and the large number of visitors who use the park.
“It was also important to us that visitors had a focal point for their visit and knew that whatever they needed the clock tower was the place to meet or to access guest services.
“We are also delighted the iconic clocks, which are the beating heart of Wicksteed Park, have finally been restored and sit proudly at the top of the beautifully-restored pavilion.”
Wayne Francis, the owner of Clockwise Restorations said: “There are so few Gents systems running today, let alone their Pulsynetic system, which was an early design, that to have an 1921 system still in its original home and functioning just as it was back then, is rare and very special.
“Over the years their condition had deteriorated greatly and the restoration was very challenging as there are some technical aspects of the system that makes the Wicksteed Clocks unique.
“We must remember that at the time these clocks were ordered and fitted if was just after the First World War, so I imagine certain parts weren't easily available.
“I would guess their factories had been used for the war effort so the two companies 'helped' each other out.”
Wicksteed Park was founded in 1921 by Charles Wicksteed, the creator of swings and slides as we know them today, as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families' health and well-being. The Wicksteed Charitable Trust was formed to ensure his work continued after his death.